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Hillary Clinton explains -- again -- about her RFK assassination remark

May 25, 2008 |  1:55 pm

Hillary Clinton's campaign is in full damage-control mode after her remarks on Friday that referenced the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in a way that some perceived as offensive to Barack Obama.

Sunday's New York Daily News has a two-page "exclusive" from the candidate herself "to set the record straight" about her comments, which she said were taken "entirely out of context and interpreted ... to mean something completely different -- and completely unthinkable."

And her communications director, Howard Wolfson, and campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, used their appearances on the Sunday talk shows to blame Obama's campaign (along with the media) for the resulting firestorm.

Clinton says that in her appearance ...

... before the editorial board of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., she was using the examples of her husband's campaign in 1992 and Kennedy's in 1968 to explain why she would not drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination before the final primary votes were counted. The last primaries in this year's nomination contest -- South Dakota and Montana -- are June 3.

"I want to set the record straight," she wrote in the Daily News. "I was making the simple point that given our history, the length of this year's primary contest is nothing unusual. Both the executive editor of the newspaper where I made the remarks, and Sen. Kennedy's son, Bobby Kennedy Jr., put out statements confirming that this was the clear meaning of my remarks. Bobby stated, 'I understand how highly charged the atmosphere is, but I think it is a mistake for people to take offense.' "

On "Face the Nation," Wolfson castigated the Obama campaign for the language in its rapid e-mail response, which said her comments were "unfortunate" and "had no place in this campaign." The e-mail was sent soon after a New York Post reporter (who was listening to the editorial board meeting via an online video link) posted a short-lived article on the paper's website that called her remarks "an odd comparison between the dead candidate and Barack Obama."

"The Obama campaign did put out a statement almost immediately condemning the remarks," Wolfson told host Bob Schieffer. "There's no question that it was unfortunate and unnecessary, and in my opinion inflammatory, for the Obama campaign to attack Sen. Clinton on Friday for these remarks, without obviously knowing the full facts or context.”

(McAuliffe, on "Fox News Sunday," used more direct language: "Friday they were all part of this process," he told host Chris Wallace. "The press secretary came out and attacked Sen. Clinton and got it going so the story would be around for three days. It's nice to get a story going and then, you know, let it go for three days over the weekend and say, 'Oh, she didn't mean anything about it.' ")

Wolfson did go on to say that he welcomed the words of Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, on ABC's "This Week"

"As far as we're concerned, George, as far as we're concerned, this issue is done," Axelrod told host George Stephanopoulos. "It was an unfortunate statement, as we said, as she's acknowledged.  She has apologized. The apology, you know, is accepted. Let's move forward."

-- Leslie Hoffecker

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